Bear fruits worthy of repentance (3:8).
Scripture portrays God as a gardener. I, however, am not one. But recently I noticed that a rosebush in our yard was overgrown with weeds. I carefully pruned the dead branches and removed the weeds curled around it. To my amazement, the bush bloomed just a few days later. Freed from all that hindered it, the roses flourished beautifully.
Repentance is John’s message. For years, I thought repent was just a word of judgment. Repentance does call us to turn from unhealthy ways that drain life out of us and keep us from thriving. But repent also denotes responsibility, hope, and freedom. I’ve learned that repentance is the path to becoming who God created us to be. We keep traveling it if we want to make progress on our faith journey. Each step moves us toward compassion and kindness. This road we follow leads to peace and patience. We march into justice, mercy, and equity. Our travel clothes are wisdom, love, and joy. These are the fruit of repentance.
John warns religious people who think his message doesn’t apply to them that relying on our spiritual heritage to avoid repentance and the reality of judgment is presumptuous. We shouldn’t grow comfortable with status and privilege. John says, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham (v. 8). We need ongoing trust in God, continually repenting of all the ways we diminish one another.
If we remove the distractions, prune away the sin that binds us, and find our identity in Christ alone, we’ll experience freedom. We’ll flourish in the abundant life Jesus came to give us. It will be beautiful.
When do you rely on someone else’s spiritual experience instead of having your own? What do you need to release, or prune, to thrive in your faith?
God, prune all that entangles us and keeps your fruit from flourishing and filling all who hunger for it. May your Spirit burn in us and light the way as we follow your path into justice and peace. Amen.